Goat dairy

Last updated 5 August 2020

Goats are sweet, playful and cheeky creatures who are exploited for their milk production in Australia. Research has shown that goats have intelligence akin to that of a dog, looking to humans to help them with tasks, like dogs do.

Goat dairy is a relatively small industry in Australia, with only 68 farms across the country. Produced in all states, Victoria accounts for one third of the total production. It is estimated that close to 16 million litres of goat milk is produced annually in Australia.



A doe and her kids, not long after birth.

Goats are first impregnated at 18 months old. Their gestation period lasts for five months. Dairy goats are impregnated ever year in order to keep the production of milk consistent and of ‘high quality’. Does (female goats) are typically impregnated by means of natural mating, following a seasonal breeding pattern. Generally there is one buck (male goat) to every 30-40 does.



Female goat kids being raised to eventually join the milking herd.

Dairy goats have their kids taken from them within hours of giving birth to them. The female goats are reared on the farm using milk replacer, to eventually join the milking herd and endure the same fate as their mothers; exploited for their milk. Male goats are of no use to the dairy; aside from a small number who may be kept for breeding, the rest are most commonly killed as ‘waste products’ soon after they are born, with the exception of some farms growing them out to be killed for meat.


Male goats

Left: Farm Transparency Project's exposé uncovering the culling of male goat kids. Right: Animal Liberation Victoria's exposé uncovering the culling of male goat kids.

As male goats will never produce milk they are largely considered a waste product of the goat dairy industry. Aside from the small number kept for breeding, male goat kids are generally slaughtered within hours of being born. Methods used to kill male goat kids include captive bolt pistol, firearms and blunt force trauma. It is perfectly legal to hit a male goat over the head with a metal pole, rock or hammer as a means to kill them if they are less than 24 hours old. Several exposés have uncovered the brutal killing of male goat kids by use of both the captive bolt method as well as the use of blunt force trauma.

Some farms are instead capitalising on the growing goat meat export trade, and in place of culling the male goats as babies are growing them out to be slaughtered for meat, generating a profit from their flesh.



Farm Transparency Projects exposé uncovering the painful disbudding of baby goats

For the female doe kids who are kept and raised on the farm to join the milking herd, many will undergo a painful procedure known as disbudding. The practice aims to prevent the growth of goats’ horns and is typically performed in their first week of life. A hot iron is pressed into the kids’ heads to kill the budding cells that would ordinarily grow into horns.

Though clearly cruel, disbudding is common on Australian goat dairy farms and legally permissible due to an exemption for commercially-farmed animals in Victoria and other states’ animal welfare legislation.


Culling of mothers

Dead and injured does being removed for culling

Doe goats are routinely culled when their production of milk begins to slow, or when their bodies are no longer able to handle the constant cycle of reimpregnation and milking and are therefore no longer economically useful to the farm. Goats in the dairy industry are slaughtered at a fraction of their lifespan, living 10-15 years naturally.

Source: Meat and Livestock Australia’s ‘Goat Husbandry’ information documents.


Caprine arthritis-encephalitis syndrome (CAE)

A number of goat dairies in Victoria are known to have herds of goats infected with caprine arthritis-encephalitis syndrome (CAE), a severe and chronic viral disease for which there is no cure. CAE is passed on through infected colostrum, milk or blood. CAE is characterised, as the name suggests, as painful arthritis and swelling of the joint capsule which leads to lameness in goats.

Doe affected by CAE.